If you follow comic or pop culture news, you’ll know it’s been a big few weeks for comic books. Captain America was just outed as a Hydra agent, Scooby-Doo and Mystery Gang just got rebooted into the apocalypse and Superman died, again. But the biggest event of them all (with all due respect to Scooby) is the start of the DC Universe’s Rebirth initiative, which kicked off with an 80-page one-shot comic on May 25. It’s a reverse reboot of sorts, with the current DC continuity (known as the “New 52” era) altered to include continuity before its 2011 inception.
You see, the New 52 initiative restarted every running DC series, with some characters’ backstories starting fresh and some, such as Batman, including selected elements and story lines, while erasing others from continuity. It was an interesting move made to streamline continuity and gain new readers, but it was a move that didn’t settle well with a lot of longtime readers. Some elements, dynamics, character traits, story arcs and even some pivotal heroes were written out of existence, all while things were often made grittier and bleaker, a strategy that DC has carried over into its films.
As I’ve rekindled my love for comics over the last several years, I’ve never been drawn to the New 52 collections and new issues. Aside from some intriguing plot lines, such as the Court of Owls and a few interesting Justice League arcs, nothing compelled me to head down to a comic shop and start reading DC weekly as I did when in my early teens. Why would I read Batman stories about a Joker who has his face cut off and crudely reattached when I can dive into a compelling murder mystery like The Long Halloween or the three massive volumes of the Knightfall saga, both of which are stories that eschew dark without losing a grasp on what a Batman story is supposed to be.
Restoring the brightness and hope into DC’s comics is the main promise made in the kick-off to the new initiative, formally titled DC Universe: Rebirth #1. In the Geoff Johns-penned story, we see Wally West, a speedster that once took the mantle of The Flash after Barry Allen’s death in the ’80s, caught in a time purgatory of sorts. He was a character lost in the New 52 reboot, and in Rebirth, serves as the catalyst for restoring the “forgotten” time in the universe. You see him reaching out to various characters trying to tell them that something—or someone—has erased parts of their lives and they have no idea. He encounters Batman, who is trying to figure out how three different Jokers are apparently running around committing crimes, his former Teen Titans teammates Nightwing and Cyborg and the love of his life, Linda Park, all of whom have no idea who he is. He also encounters various despairing scenes in the universe, such as The Atom becoming trapped in the Microverse, Green Arrow and Black Canary (who have been longtime partners before the New 52) acting as strangers to one another and various heroes mourning the aforementioned death of Superman.
Unsuccessful in contacting anyone, West uses the last of his life-force to say goodbye to his mentor, Barry Allen, who is the sole Flash in this continuity. In a heart-wrenching, beautifully written and drawn scene, West says his goodbyes, but somehow, everything comes back to Allen, and he brings West into his timeline. West then tells him that parts of their lives were taken by some powerful entity in the universe no one has ever encountered and they need to get those missing pieces back. Meanwhile, panels hint toward the identity of this watching entity, which I won’t spoil here, but it is a well-known comics figure who has never encountered the mainstream DC universe before.
This one-shot comic could be somewhat confusing for new readers. It throws in characters you’ll have to Google to know who they are and has some confusing spots if you haven’t followed the New 52. However, if you’re somewhat knowledgeable about DC and are willing to take things at face value, it’s still a worthwhile read and could be a decent entry point for a new comic reader. This one-shot initiative really feels like it was meant for the longtime fans, especially those who aren’t intrigued by the New 52. It shows a glimmer of hope for the future of DC, and throws in major foreshadowing that I’m sure will rock readers’ perspectives on the DC universe as it’s known to be.
Physical copies of DC Universe: Rebirth #1 have been hard to find, but check with local retailers Outer Limits, Grand Adventures and Hastings for availability. You can purchase a digital edition on whichever digital comics platform you prefer.